Football matches fall into many categories. I always have in my mind three particular matches, they are:
- The Most Uninteresting,
- The Hardest and The Most Enjoyable
- The Most Uninteresting.
Having umpired 1st Grade on the Saturday in Sydney our group was required to umpire a Sydney Under 16 selection trial on the Sunday morning at Moore Park, opposite the Bat and Ball Hotel. Any barracking was only for individual players by the few parents in attendance. If there was no barracking for the teams it normally led to a very dull atmosphere and was a bit of a let down for us after our match the previous day. No matter how hard we tried to properly motivate ourselves, I believe that this mood led to what may be described as a below par performance by us. Whilst some people are at times critical of barracking, I believe a certain balanced amount does create an interesting atmosphere.
It is possible that this type of situation goes with the type of match. Nineteen years earlier I was fortunate to play in the same selection trial on the same ground. For myself and some others it was not a very interesting match. I played on the wing marking a player named John Locke who later played for Balmain. Throughout the game each of us only had an opportunity to touch the ball about four times, the other wing seemed to be where all the action was. Needless to say I did not make the selected team and I think John also missed out.
I was appointed to a 2nd Grade match at Trumper Park between Newtown and Western Suburbs. The make up of the teams was a large number of players who had competed against each other for many years in 1st Grade and many hard fought Grand Finals. I always said that if a group of players wanted to create a riot there was not a lot one umpire could do to stop it. The Appointments Board must have had some premonition about the game and I was blessed with two excellent Boundary Umpires, which was unusual for reserve grade matches of the time.
On the first bounce the Wests ruckman gave his Newtown opponent a very soft slap across the face and I awarded a free kick. The Newtown player immediately spat in the direction of the Wests player missing by a long way, fortunately for all concerned his spitting ability was a long way short of his kicking ability. I blew my whistle and said to the two players “You obviously have a lot of things to square off about. Leave the youngsters alone.” I restarted the game knowing that the Boundary Umpires would ensure that they would keep a very keen eye on any action away from the play.
It was a match that certainly kept me on my toes and alert and I must admit I enjoyed the pressure. The match continued in a spirited manner and there were no more obvious indiscretions.
Umpiring training the next week was on the same evening as Newtown’s at Erskineville Oval. After training we attended the Kurrajong Hotel across the road to rehydrate. A number of Newtown players were also there. Laurie Mc Nulty a great Newtown goal sneak with many, many years experience come up to me with a satisfied look on his face and said, “You know Mac that was the hardest game I have ever played.” This made umpiring feel worthwhile.
The Most Enjoyable
Towards my later years umpiring senior football I umpired wherever I could help out and enjoyed it tremendously. Some lower grade games can be as interesting as top grade matches.
In the early 1980’s I was appointed to a 2nd Grade match in Second Division between Liverpool and St Ives at Rosedale Oval. On the drive out I was complaining to myself about being appointed to this match as I also had to umpire a 3rd Grade match between Wests and St George the next morning. After much grumbling to myself, things started to fall into place. A few weeks earlier both Liverpool and Pennant Hills 2nd Grades had both been reported for misconduct. So i guessed that my appointment was possibly to utilise my experience to ensure that teams behaved themselves. I had never umpired St Ives at that stage but had umpired Liverpool (Sthn Districts) on many occasions over the years and knew a number of their players very well. Being early at the ground I took the opportunity to catch up with and chat with the Liverpool players that I knew and also introduced myself to St Ives coach, etc.
Rosedale is a great ground to umpire on and produces some wonderful football. The game progressed without any incident and it was a joy to be involved in. I was never interested in scores during games as I always felt that there was enough pressure on an umpire during a match without worrying about three or thirty points difference in the score. On preparing to sign the score cards I realised that the scores were even at the end of the first three quarters and Liverpool won by three points. How good can it be? It does not have to be an AFL Grand Final to be great, every match stands on its own importance.
It was one match that my wife, Babs was unable to attend and on my return home she, as usual, asked how I got on? I was pleased to be able to tell her how great it was and the only blemish was that I had three bad bounces throughout the match.